Confession time. I grew up in the 70s and 80s and have a real nostalgia for all the magic of that time, and that of the 50s and 60s which I eagerly read about in the Supreme Magigrams and the like. So to review a book on Alan Shaxon was always going to be a joy – since his performing heydey is a good match for this. The Sophisticated Sorcerer bills itself as ‘The Life and Magic of an International Magician’ – and it certainly ticks both of these boxes.
It is a beautifully produced hardback book of just over 200 pages including the index. It is well illustrated throughout with lots of interesting photographs covering ‘the life’ and clear diagrams explaining ‘the magic. The book started off as a writing project by Shaxon himself, but was cut short by his sudden death, so Scott Penrose and Steve Short took on the task of completing the book.
The first half outlines Shaxon’s life. For me, although it was a fascinating read, it was a little unsatisfactory as a biography. It read more like a list of his professional engagements – I would have loved a little more detail and personal anecdote. There were some of these, but I always love finding out more. There are some nice reminiscences – especially about his close friend Robin Harbin – himself a wonderful magician with a fascinating life. Indeed, several items explained in the magic section owe their origin to Robert Harbin. Other magicians share memories of working with Shaxon and highlight the high regard in which he was held by his peers and colleagues.
The second half explains a good number of routines which were used by Shaxon throughout his working career. There are some simple yet effective (close up) card effects, but the majority of the items are his staple cabaret/platform effects. Almost all the signature Shaxon effects are in there – including Aerial Fishing (an effect almost synonymous with him), his T&R newspaper, Hydrostatic Glass, and of course his wonderful Confabulation. There are plenty of other effects too.
Some of the presentations may be a little dated for modern tastes, but there is much to be learned here about routining and entertaining – and of course one of my own key beliefs that method is nothing and effect is everything. A number of the items well illustrate the principle that you need the simplest possible method to achieve the effect rather than the flashiest.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and there are ideas and effects that I will take away too. It comes highly recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in this wonderful period of magic history or the desire to learn from a master of magic.
Available direct from MagicShop.co.uk or your favourite Murphy’s Magic dealer.
Review copy kindly provided by Murphys Magic to whom dealer enquiries should be directed.